Precious Jones, an illiterate sixteen-year-old, has up until now been invisible to the father who rapes her and the mother who batters her and to the authorities who dismiss her as just one more of Harlem’s casualties. But when Precious, pregnant with a second child by her father, meets a determined and radical teacher, we follow her on a journey of education and enlightenment as she learns not only how to write about her life, but how to make it truly her own for the first time.
MY REVIEW (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)
I just finished reading Precious (aka Push) by Sapphire and have thought for the last half hour how I feel about. I’m on the fence – did I like it? Did I hate it? On the one hand, the story has potential. I felt sorry for Precious (who really didn’t seem likable in the novel – different from how I see her in the trailer for the movie) throughout the novel and was happy for her when she started to make a life for herself.
On the other hand (and there are quite a few of these), how could so many bad things happen to one person – rape, incest, illiteracy, HIV, bearing a child, etc. One thing that bothered me was the writing style. Sapphire starts out the book as though Precious were reciting it (Precious is written as a stream of consciousness by Precious). The problem is that the language isn’t consistent. Certain parts are totally comprehensible, and others are incomprehensible (and this is in the beginning of the book, not towards the end where Precious’s literacy improves). Or there is inconsistency with certain words – i.e. switching the word “mother” to “muver” within a few pages of each other. The voice throughout the book was just not genuine.
One thing that bothered me was when Precious was birthing her first child – Mongo. In the hospital, as she’s being questioned by a nurse about her new baby (keep in mind, Precious is 12 years old at this point), she tells the nurse that the father of the baby is her (i.e. Precious’s) father. Would nothing have happened about this? Or was it so common for people to be in incestuous relationships that no one does anything about it? Wouldn’t a nurse have to report this? But no, Precious goes right back to living with her (sexually and physically) abusive mother and then bears ANOTHER child with her father.
The good parts are that she has values. She doesn’t want to turn into her mother. She wants a life for her and her children. She wants to go to university. She wants to find love. It was nice to see that after growing up with no friends and no real family, Precious finds friends within her new school, who turn into her family.
When I finished reading the book, I felt like nothing had really been resolved – and I really wanted there to be a conclusion, some closure. Precious is still studying to get her GED, but I would have liked to see what happens when she gets into the real word. Yes, she severed ties with her abusive mother, but she’s still living in a halfway house talking about how she should get a place for her and her children, and she’s still relying on other people for money – not having a job for herself. And she’s still learning to read.
In the end, I can’t say whether or not I see Precious as being worthy of a recommendation to anyone. Personally, I can think of so many better books to read (ones that don’t include the word “pu**y” throughout). I don’t see what was so earth shattering with this novel – it was easy enough to read (Cormac McCarthy has better novels that make you really pay attention to the dialogue) but it just didn’t seem believable that so many things would happen to one person. If you’re looking for shock factor, then read this book. If you’re looking for something with a resolution, something that makes you feel like you didn’t just waste your time when you’re finished reading, then read something else.